Hearing loss is considered a typical part of the aging process: we begin to hear things less intelligibly as we get older. Perhaps we need to keep asking the grandkids to repeat themselves when they talk, or we have to start turning up the volume on the TV, or perhaps…we start…what was I going to say…oh yes. Perhaps we begin to suffer memory loss.
Memory loss is also commonly thought of as a normal part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are much more common in the older population than the general population. But could it be that the two are connected somehow? And, better still, what if there were a way for you to treat hearing loss and also protect your memories and mental health?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With nearly 30 million people in the United States who have hearing loss, most of them do not connect hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, the connection is quite clear if you look in the right direction: if you suffer from hearing loss, there is serious risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to numerous studies – even at fairly low levels of hearing loss.
Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety are also pretty prevalent in people who have hearing loss. The main point is that hearing loss, mental health issues, and cognitive decline all have an impact on our ability to socialize.
Why is Cognitive Decline Linked to Hearing Loss?
While there are no concrete findings or definitive evidence that hearing loss leads to cognitive decline and mental health problems, there is obviously some connection and several clues that experts are looking at. They have pinpointed two main situations which seem to result in problems: your brain working extra hard have to and social isolation.
Many studies show that loneliness goes hand in hand with depression and anxiety. And people are less likely to socialize when they are dealing with hearing loss. Many people find that it’s too hard to have conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy activities like the movie theater. These actions lead to a path of solitude, which can lead to mental health issues.
Additionally, researchers have discovered that the brain often has to work extra hard to compensate for the the ears not hearing as well as they should. When this happens, other areas of the brain, including the one responsible for memory, are tapped for hearing and comprehending sound. This overtaxes the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much faster than if the brain was processing sounds normally.
How to Avoid Cognitive Decline Using Hearing Aids
Hearing aids restore our ability to hear letting the brain to use it’s resources in a normal manner which is our best defense for dealing with cognitive decline and dementia. Research shows that people increased their cognitive functions and had a decreased rate of dementia when they used hearing aids to deal with their hearing loss.
Actually, if more people wore their hearing aids, we might see reduced cases of mental health concerns and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of people who require hearing aids even use them, which makes up between 4.5 million and 9 million people. The World Health Organization estimates that there are close to 50 million individuals who suffer from some form of dementia. If hearing aids can lower that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for lots of individuals and families will develop exponentially.